12-06-07 - 3

Real Belgian Waffles at the Waffle Truck are pretty exciting. They're at Civic Center market on Wednesday mornings. The truck is run by two guys from Belgium who go around to different farmers markets. They're real yeast-raised waffles with pearl sugar and everything. (addendum : I just read that they import their dough from Belgium flash-frozen. WTF that seems so retarded, how can they not make it themselves?) (they do apparently have a real cast iron belgian waffle press; yes, it's just a press, you heat it over a gas flame just like a frying pan, I've been wanting one of these for years but they're super hard to find in the US)

I've been thinking about buzzing off all my hair again (I do it every few months), but when I was at market yesterday this gay black homeless guy talked me out of it. Apparently he used to be a hair stylist before his life went off the rails. He was drunk at 10 AM and still had half a six pack left, carrying around the beer cans by the loose plastic rings of the ones that were gone. I gave him half my waffle.

I made kind of a fancy dinner but it didn't come out that great. Chanterelle risotto was good, the texture was almost perfect; actually risotto is one of those things that's really easy if you can cook at all but people think it's way harder than it is so it's impressive; anyway, the problem is chanterelles are too mild and it wasn't really a good use of them. I'd rather do a Porcini or Morel or King Trumpet risotto, and the chanterelles would be better just sauted and tossed with some plain pasta with butter and garlic.

Main course was Porter-braised Lamb Shank. I made up the recipe, sort of inspired by the idea of cola-braising or osso bucco. Basic prep : brown the meat, remove, toss in mirepoix and saute in pan juices, add tomato paste and cook out the raw flavor, add lots of garlic, deglaze with porter and chicken stock, now boil hard to reduce a bit, return meat to pan and bake at 350 for 1.5 hours with lid on, remove lid and bake a half hour more. Braising liquid should be way reduced to a thick sauce. That all worked but I made a few mistakes. It wasn't the ideal cut of meat, it was too lean and got dried out; something like beef short ribs or pork shoulder would've been better. I also made the mistake of adding a bit of brown sugar to the liquid to enhance the sweetness, but I shouldn't have, it was plenty sweet without it and it made it too sweet.

One thing that did work really well is I roasted carrots and pearl onions seperately to plate with the meat. In the past I would've tried to cook them in the braising pot, but it's so much harder to control and get everything to finish at the same time when you cook them together. It's way easier to do what restaurants do, which is cook everything seperately and then just assemble a plate as if it was done together, drizzle the sauce around and everyone's happy. Roast carrots and pearl onions was an excellent accompaniment; I'm just in love with plain roast vegetables these days.

In other food news, I made some roast chicken the other night that was some of the best I ever made, cuz I cheated. I wasn't really planning on making it and just picked up some random pieces at the store and tossed it in. The secret, I believe, was that it was not an actual whole chicken, but rather just breasts and legs. Having it pre-cut lets you cook it hotter and faster which makes it easier to get that crispy skin with meat inside that's just cooked. You can also start the legs 5 minutes before the breasts so they finish at the same time. I just rubbed the skin with butter, lots of salt and pepper, and stuck whole rosemary twigs between the skin and the flesh (easy to remove when it's done, you don't want to eat rosemary). Cook at 400 for 15-20 minutes (+5 more for legs).

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